Mass murderer Julian Knight has been granted leave to challenge a decision to ban him from access to a computer in his prison cell, which he says he needs to prepare for legal proceedings in the Supreme and High Courts. Knight has been declared a vexatious litigant because he frequently launches futile law suits, which means he now needs the Court’s permission to sue. He is expected to challenge the Corrections Amendment (Parole) Bill 2014 if it is passed, because it names him as the only prisoner who must be denied parole unless his death is imminent. The High Court has previously struck down a NSW law that purported to keep a specific prisoner locked up after his release date. However, the Victorian bill differs in that Knight is serving seven consecutive life sentences, and eligibility for parole is a matter for the executive rather than the judiciary.
A County Court judge has criticised the mandatory sentencing that applies to people smuggling offences. The comments came during a plea hearing for a refugee who was found guilty of helping other refugees, including his family, enter Australia. Judge Dean suggested the mandatory penalty would create injustice: “One can understand why it happened and why a person would want to assist their own family or his wife’s family to travel or leave circumstances of persecution. It’s not lawful but it’s certainly explicable. He goes to prison and they are permanent residents.” The offender must be sentenced to a head sentence of at least five years, and a non-parole period of at least three years. Late last year, the High Court ruled that the sentencing regime was valid.
The Assistant Immigration Minister, Michaelia Cash, refused a request by the Senate to provide documents relating to Operation Sovereign Borders. She claimed a “public interest immunity” because releasing the information might undermine the Government’s attempts to stop asylum-seekers reaching Australia. The Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee was asked to consider the issue. Its report recommended that, to prevent the executive avoiding reasonable scrutiny by the legislature, the Senate should look at “changes to the way immunity claims were considered”. In particular, it suggested adopting “the New South Wales Legislative Council’s model of independent arbitration for determining public-interest disputes”.
The Court Services Victoria Act 2014 was given Royal Assent last month, and has now commenced. It establishes a new body called Court Services Victoria, which will for the first time allow Victorian courts and tribunals to administer their own budgets, free from control by the Department of Justice.